When Google rebranded Webmaster Tools as Google Search Console SEOs were going wild over the new Search Analytics report. However, as the resident skeptic I’m not so quick to worship at the feet of Google’s data.
Rankings Up, Impressions Down
It seems pretty intuitive to say as your rankings increase, so too should your site’s impressions in SERPs. While this may not always be the case, it is generally true. However, often times in GSC I will see something like this:
If GSC data is to be believed, there is often a direct negative correlation between rankings and impressions. Huh?
Non-sensical Keyword Level Data
This keyword level report in GSC is a doozy:
Man, this data is all kinds of jacked up. A long tail phrase like “local residential moving company” that they rank 37.7th for is driving more impressions then “moving company” a head term that they rank 7.9th for? I mean, I guess that could be true right? Wrong:
I’m going to just come out and say it; head terms have higher search volume then long tail ones. Here at Local SEO Guide we thrive on controversy.
A quick caveat, it is totally possible that this company is ranking on the 4th page of Google “nationally” for the phrase local residential moving company and that is what is being counted as impressions. While that goes against the Keyword Planner data, I love indulging in thought experiments. If this were the case, then to me this is another reason why this report is unhelpful. For local businesses, national rankings for terms are unlikely to positively impact their revenue. In this instance the business is a single location moving company based in Detroit. If someone searches local residential moving in Los Angeles and wants to move within the city that is not a lead they can convert. So in a significant amount of cases all this does is pad the impressions and create un-actionable data. Also, in a world of increasing localization of search how are we supposed to be able to differentiate “local” & “national” if Google doesn’t do it for us?
Disparities between GA and GSC
Now, it’s not saying anything new that there are disparities between Google Search Console and Google Analytics, they just measure different things. However, it’s possible to isolate something and show just how bad that disparity is. For our clients, we use UTM campaign tracking parameters to track GMB traffic. So lets look at the data for the page with UTM parameters in GSC and compare it against the campaign tracking in GA:
According to GSC we are really awful at the local SEO thing.
Phew. Keep in mind in the GSC screenshot we are viewing the clicks to that page from a SERP, which should correlate pretty closely with sessions in GA. Now, I know there are other ways to get to a website through A GMB page other then clicking on the website button for a business in the local pack but this disparity is massive.
On a semi-related side note, if you use campaign tracking on a GMB URL then please, for the love of god, canonicalize the GMB landing page and set your URL parameters in GSC.
Ever since Google took away keyword data from analytics packages people have been clamoring for better keyword and search data. When Google rolled out the Search Analytics report people in the SEO and digital marketing spaces ate it up, almost religiously. We have been so starved for 1st party Google data for so long everyone seemed willing to take whatever bone Google threw them and treat it as truth because we wanted to believe it was. After playing around with this report for several months I am regularly unable to reconcile it with analytics & ranking data and I have to wonder, how many people are making strategic decisions based on this misleading data and what is the benefit to Google of revamping this report?